March 30, 2010

Never stop celebrating

My mother started a little tradition 23 years ago when my older sister turned 10 - a weekend away to celebrate each "decade" birthday. It's been a great tradition, and it helps to have something to enjoy as another decade ticks past. Though my 30th was in August, we have both been too busy to get away for a weekend. Which is why, 7 months later, my mother and I found ourselves at a sweet little hotel in Hood River this past weekend, toasting to 30 good years.

We started the weekend early - cracking open that first bottle of wine Friday afternoon.

We did not have cake, but we did have macarons. We're both big fans of macaroons, but I've never tried the french version until now. We had Pistachio and Lavender - both very good, but really no competition for that winning combination of shredded coconut, almonds and eggs.

Saturday brought another first - a trip out to see the Maryhill Winery. I've been wanting to go here in the summer for one of their concerts, but have never made the trip.

Beautiful place on the gorge, surrounded by vineyards. I can imagine that it's even better when it's a bit warmer and sunnier, and one can enjoy their glass(es) of wine while listening to music.

The brisk weather did not stop us from tasting their wares, however.

We would have kicked that bottle too, if only Mom didn't have to drive us home.

March 25, 2010

Shrinky-dinks and a rabbit

Gift box is a Yogi Tea Box, carefully unfolded and then refolded inside out. They print the best pattern on the inside.

Rebecca's birthday has come around again (not to make you feel old, m'dear - you'll always be younger than me). She is always the recipient of my random little gifts, and is such a good sport about it. This year, to mark the occasion:

A little, rosy-cheeked rabbit, with a hidden heart. This little amigurumi pattern is from Crafty Is Cool, and I only edited it a little bit.

On a recent trip to the toy store I came across a pack of shrinky-dinks. I used to love these as a kid, and wanted to find a way to use them now, at the ripe old age of thirty. When visiting Susanna the other weekend, I broke out some of her stamps and went to town on the shrinky-dinks. When I got home, I colored them and put them in the oven. Here's what I learned - your stamp ink really should be permanent. Apparently the ink I used was water-based. But, here's what I also learned - when you pull them out of the oven and the ink has bled and you think it's a lost cause, just wipe the back with a wet towel, and voila, good to go.

I cut some discs out of shrinky-dinks (punching a hole in them before shrinking).

And then glued the stamped pieces to the discs - shiny side up on the stamped pieces, rough side up on the discs.

Added a little ribbon, and hopefully Rebecca can find some use for them as gift tags - or whatever.

March 21, 2010

Cob Pizza Oven: Day One

Mike has long been interested in building something out of cob, and our yard is a perfect blank canvas for it. We've talked about cob benches, cob hot tubs, cob houses, but without any experience, and with hundreds of other projects, we've never moved forward with the idea. Until.. for a wedding present, our friend Bobby, a "professional cobber" offered to help us build a cob pizza oven. Our lives have been so busy with other projects over the last year and a half, that this past weekend was our first opportunity to get started.

Mike, with the help of Bobby and his friend, Clint, started off the day by collecting all the materials. Bobby says that the beauty of building cob is that you can use any number of materials to build the base of your structure. However, over the years of remodeling this house, we have unearthed a ton of brick, concrete pavers, keystone blocks and cinderblocks in our yard. We've just collected them in piles, as we didn't know exactly what to do with them. Until now. This was the best part of the project for me: seeing all that concrete junk going into something useful and beautiful.

Above are the materials that we've collected so far. As you can see, we've done a lot of drinking to collect all those bottles. And by the end of the day (our first 70 degree day of the year!), the pile had grown significantly. We purchased the sand, Bobby brought the paper dust, and the gravel was taken from the front of our house (see photo below), where for some unknown reason, the previous owner had mounded it up at the side of the driveway.

Bobby carries concrete

Mike shovels gravel (I was so happy to see this pile disappear)

The boys gather round to discuss design.

The general outline for the foundation is dug. Shortly after, it was filled with gravel and tamped down.

Clint and Bobby break up pavers to use in the foundation.

Mike creates a drain trail so that the foundation does not fill up with water.

The first round of building the foundation.

It was determined that the foundation had too many gaps between each keystone block, due the "lips" on the back of each piece. The only way to fix that was to break the "lips" off.

Much better.

We begin to fill the foundation with rubble.

It was at this point in the day that the cloud cover rolled in, the drowsy-inducing effects of the beer took over, and the bellies began to rumble. So we covered the materials in preparation for the incoming rain, and are now waiting for another sunny day to carry on. In honor of our future pizza oven, I made up some pizza dough*, and Jessica brought over a whole bunch of vegetables to throw on it, and we all retired to the couch with another beer.

To note, when I say "we" in the above descriptions of today's events, it is the royal "we", as I participated very little in this stage of building. I was however, painting the side of the house (yet again):

*When Bobby saw me making the pizza dough, in perfect deadpan, he said, "the pizza oven won't be ready today, Abby".

March 19, 2010

California: reminding me what summer feels like

I was in Palo Alto with Elizabeth on Tuesday and Wednesday of this last week, meeting with our Stanford clients and checking out the progress on our two School of Medicine projects: the Lorry I. Lokey Stem Cell Research Building, and the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge (buildings above on the left and right). The weather was incredible, and the scent of flowers permeated the air. I would have loved to have spent the entire day lounging on the lawn reading my book.

March 14, 2010

Turtle & Ipod Cover

Turtle, from Tiny Yarn Animals by Tamie Snow

Crocheting with fervor continues at our house, but in order to keep them from taking over, I'm giving more and more pieces away. Above is a turtle, that I put into a gift box to Sara - turtle is now residing happily in Marrietta, Ohio.

Susanna got a new ipod for her birthday, and so of course, she got a new crocheted cover as well.

Ipod cover - general pattern adapted from Slugs on the Refrigerator. Due to a thinner yarn weight, I had to make a few adjustments to the pattern to make it large enough to fit over the iPod Touch (same size as iphone, though slightly thinner). Instead of chaining 19, I chained 27. And instead of a total of 17 rows, I did 24 rows. Also, there was no way that skipping one stitch on the tab was going to leave me a large enough buttonhole to fit over a button, so I actually had to make the tab a little larger.

March 9, 2010

Dude, nice half-pipe...

Last weekend Mike and I went to Sedro-Woolley to celebrate birthdays with Susanna and Clayton. Susanna made an incredible Thai soup (similar to Pho - no recipe yet, but hopefully she'll craft one soon) for Clayton's birthday dinner, and she was very excited to receive her new ipod touch. Aidan roped Mike into helping him with a special project: a half-pipe for his latest interest, finger-sized skateboards.

The half-pipe was created by cutting a 5-gallon bucket in half. The base is plywood and 2x4's, painted black. The bucket held concrete in it's previous life, and while they worked hard to get it all out, I think the leftover bits add to the overall look of a well-used skate park.

March 8, 2010

Blaze vs. The Pilot

Portland Trailblazers at the Rose Garden

University of Portland Pilots at the Chiles Center

Since we're still talking about basketball...

Mike and I went to two basketball games in 2 weeks. I hadn't been to a basketball game in years!
They were both very different experiences. The Blazers seem to stop every 2 minutes for one reason or another, but there is endless entertainment at every pause in the game.

The Pilots are a little less entertaining, but the ref doesn't blow the whistle every few seconds and you feel like you really got to watch a basketball game. Plus the "plays" are much more pronounced, and it brought me back to 8th grade when I used to play.

Both games were great, as were the pretzels, popcorn, rice krispie treats, soda and hotdogs that we consumed. However, I've decided that it's in my best interest to become a UP Pilots fan. Not only are the games half the price as the Blazers, and they play within walking distance of our house, but also because I will always have something to wear to a game. Go Purple!
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